Portable audio solutions have come quite a long way over the years when we consider early innovations such as the Sony Walkman through to the iPod and modern smartphones. With the introduction of Bluetooth, we’ve seen external speakers rise in popularity in and outside the home for both personal and social enjoyment.
One niche that has been carved out in the Bluetooth speaker is the tough/outdoor speaker. While you may want to invest a bit more in Bluetooth speakers that will remain indoors you would rightfully be wary of taking them outside. In particular, you would be worried about the risk to the speakers of water damage, dirt and various critters that may try and get inside.
As per the proverb, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
So, with the above in mind, I was intrigued to try out the Olixar ToughBeats Outdoor Wireless Bluetooth Speaker kindly provided by MobileZap.
To kick things off, here are the basic specs:
- Bluetooth 2.1 compatible with ten metre range,
- 3.5mm audio jack,
- Built-in microphone for phone calls,
- 1 x micro USB port for charging,
- IPX4 rating (splash proof),
- Rugged silicone exterior,
- 6 hour music playback,
- 2 hour charge time with built-in rechargeable battery.
Following on, here’s the unboxing video give you a closer look at the box contents and the speaker as well:
Now, I’m really not an outdoors kind of guy at the best of times. It’s been years since I went camping (the last time I actually did that was at school in 1997). However, I do clean outside the house every week and listen to podcasts to pass the time. Rather than have my phone sitting outside exposed to the environment (sunlight, heat, humidity, rain, water, dirt, insects, etc) I can leave it inside and take the speaker outside.
This works really well as there are playback controls on the top of the speaker including a button to answer the phone just so I don’t miss any important phone calls.
You don’t have to use the speaker exclusively outdoors though as it performs admirably indoors and is ideal of areas such as the kitchen or bathroom where accidental exposure to water is a real prospect. I just perch the speaker on the corner of the shower cubicle, turn up the volume and enjoy my music and podcasts without worry of water damaging the unit even if it manages to tip into the shower with running water it should be fine.
They key thing you have to remember that it isn’t waterproof. This means that you don’t have to worry about the speaker getting damaged in reasonable indoor/outdoor usage (i.e. don’t go deliberately throwing it against a wall or the ground) but it isn’t designed to be completely submerged in water. The weak point is the flap at the back covering the power switch, audio jack and USB port – if water gets in there then it could be game over.
Of course, audio quality is going to be a primary concern here (it’s a speaker after all) and sometimes concessions have to be made between audio reproductions and water resistance. Trying to compare the audio quality of this speaker against a fully blown surround sound home theatre system or top shelf headphones would be completely unfair and unreasonable. That said, audio quality is surprisingly good and easily superior to that achieved by the speaker in my Nokia Lumia 1520. Trebles are pretty well covered as are most of the basses but as you go further down the range audio isn’t as well defined (which can be countered to a degree by cranking up the volume) but that wasn’t unexpected.
Speaking of which, this little speaker can pack quite a punch at maximum volume although doing so for prolonged periods would likely impact upon its rated playback time of six hours. In my tests, I got roughly four to five hours per charge. You can use the speaker while it charges off a USB port on a computer or a spare AC USB adapter you might have hanging around for one of your other devices. However, if you’ve got the speaker charging off something like a desktop computer which is also connected via the 3.5mm audio jack you may encounter some audio interference. Just make sure you charge and receive audio from separate devices to avoid this problem.
All in all, I am rather impressed by this speaker from Olixar as it combines the convenience of Bluetooth with robustness and good audio quality in a package about the size of a can of soft drink (give or take). It’s a great all-rounder and I’ll definitely use it quite a bit every week inside and outside the house.
For more stereo speaker solutions, you can check out MobileZap’s range here.